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Third-person is a perspective in which the player can visibly see the body of the controlled character. This is seen in most third-person shooters and adventure games. It most commonly refers to a viewpoint behind the player character.
Third-person perspective puts you in direct control of a character that you can actually see in front of you. Third-person, in grammar is referred to as he, she or it. This means that you are not directly the person you are controlling. You do not control his thoughts or what he looks at (the first-person perspective, the you, gives you better control over putting you into someone else's body even if, in a grammar sense, it does not really count as first-person).
The third-person perspective usually has the player looking at his character's back for most of the game. The character is usually on the the left side of the screen and the camera angle may be fixed behind the character meaning you never see his face. Some games have the character in the center of the screen where you can pan the camera around the character (Uncharted or GTA). If the camera is fixed, than panning the camera controls the character's view. Aiming (in shooters) is usually done over-the-shoulder. The camera zooms over the shoulder of the character, where the player can aim. Older games (the behind-the-shoulder trend was started by Resident Evil 4) have you just shooting at enemies. Since this can be imprecise, some third-person games have a lock on targeting system.
In order to immerse the player, some third person games use different techniques to make the player feel like he's watching a movie. Blood spatters onto the screen in Gears of War, shaky cam is used during intense moments in Uncharted, lens flare appears in Blood Stone when the player is facing a light and what is maybe the most original use of the third person perspective to this date, Dog Days makes it look like a camera man is following you around.
Advantages over First Person View
- visible character
- visible actions: jumping, climbing, taking cover
- wider field of view
- Close-up three dimensional objects are hard to portray realistically without stereoscopic 3D and head tracking: e.g the protruding gun in any FPS.